Brown DLD Faculty Guides

Managing Group Work

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What structures can you provide to facilitate group work? For instance, will you create and assign the group roles, scaffold the project to help with time management, assign leaders or suggest collaborative software tools? Managing group work entails how and when you present the activity, schedule the due dates, share the evaluation criteria, and support a collaborative working environment. 

  1. Present the expectations and goals. Provide students with a detailed plan about what they are expected to complete and why. By showing students how the group work  is connected to their learning, and the real-world, they will be motivated to do their best work. 
  2. Share the timeline and explain how it fits into the context of the course. Scaffold the activity and provide students with the timeline so they know where they are going, and be able to plan for it.
  3. Propose a set of collaboration tools. You can use the Canvas People tool to Create and Manage Groups or Google Course Groups to facilitate group coordination and collaboration. Students can use Canvas Groups to collaborate on projects and assignments, and initiate or participate in asynchronous discussions. Depending on your class size and the purpose of the group work, students may choose which collaboration tool they’d like to use. 
  4. Describe how groups are formed. You can ask students to self-sign up by interest, topic, time zone, etc.,randomly assign groups, or manually assign them. Consider that how groups are formed will impact the level of engagement or interaction, at least initially. For assignments, we advise capping groups at 5 members. For discussions, creating a group set of 3-5 participants enables more intimate conversations with enough diversity of perspectives to keep students engaged.
  5. Share expectations for group interactions and roles. Articulate the key roles, and norms and expectations for working together to give the group a starting point. Describing roles and responsibilities can often help the groups run discussions and manage projects themselves without direct instructor oversight. Still, encourage groups to discuss how they will handle difficult situations and foster better collaboration as they would in common real-world situations.
  6. Engage students in evaluation. Build in mechanisms for students to report on how things are going so you can address issues of concern and equal distribution of work. If you will be grading the group tasks, let students know how individual performance, group performance, and the team work processes will be assessed. Using clear rubrics and providing timely and relevant feedback can help students be successful and improve their work. You may even ask students to develop some aspects of the grading criteria to involve them in the evaluation process.
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